Manitoba IDs steps to enhanced drivers licence

WINNIPEG — Manitoba is introducing an enhanced identification card (EIC) as a less expensive alternative to a passport that will permit entry to the U.S. by land or water.

As of June 1, everyone entering and exiting the U.S. by land or water will have to show proof of citizenship. The stringent U.S. rule is already in effect for air travelers and was developed as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, shortly after 9/11.

The Manitoba card is now in the final stages of approval by the U.S. government. B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario are among other provinces developing enhanced drivers licence to be used in lieu of passports.

“The new card will be offered to Manitobans on a voluntary basis and we expect it to be a popular choice. Besides costing less than a passport, the new card will have several security features and be more convenient to carry,” said Manitoba Attorney General Dave Chomiak, who is also minister responsible for Manitoba Public Insurance, which is delivering the new program.

Starting Feb. 2, any Canadian citizen who is a resident of Manitoba can apply for the new card. An EIC will cost $30 for drivers with valid Manitoba licences and $50 for all others, which is $50 to $70 less than the cost of a passport (including the cost of a photo).

“This is an important achievement in our ongoing efforts to ensure that trade and travel across our borders are not disrupted as a result of changes to U.S. entry requirements under the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative,” said Vic Toews, president of the Treasury Board.

The card can only be used for entry to the U.S. by land or water. It will not be acceptable for entering the U.S. by air or for entering other countries. Canadian citizens planning to fly to the U.S., change planes on U.S. soil or to travel abroad still require a passport.

The card will utilize a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that can be read from a maximum distance of 4.5 metres by special scanners at U.S. border crossings. For privacy protection, the card will come with a protective sleeve to help prevent the RFID chip from being read at times other than intended, and will be the size of a credit card.

Marilyn McLaren, president and CEO of Manitoba Public Insurance, said, in light of privacy considerations related to the collection, sharing and safeguarding of individuals’ personal information, the corporation and government have been working with the Manitoba ombudsman to ensure that the program complies with Manitoba’s information privacy laws and to incorporate best practices to protect the privacy of card holders.

The security features of the EIC will be incorporated into the Manitoba driver’s licence when the province moves to its new one-piece licence in late 2009. At that time, drivers who already hold an EIC will be able to convert it into an enhanced driver’s licence (EDL) if they wish.

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